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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Who the Tornado Took from Us; Anthony Weiner's PR Campaign; "Behind the Candelabra"; Fort Hood Suspect Still Being Paid; Free Burgers

Aired May 23, 2013 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. In "National Lead," the stories of survival amazing, but the stories of loss heartbreaking as the community of Moore, Oklahoma moves forward after a devastating tornado we remember the youngest victims.

The "Politics Lead," former Congressman Anthony Weiner enters the New York City mayor's race and now the race is on for the worst puns possible. Seemingly every member of the New York City media thinks there is going to be a prize.

And the "Pop Lead," now he's a gay icon, but back in his day Liberace was in the closet. His fabulous rhinestone studded closet. A new HBO movie delves into his rocky romance with a man 40 years his junior. We're talking with the legendary Hollywood player who brought this film to life.

In "National News," adding insult to injury more severe storms with heavy rains are slowing down the recovery effort in Moore, Oklahoma today. The destruction colossal, 12,000 homes damaged and so many lives taken, lives that were just barely getting started. THE LEAD's Erin McPike is live in Moore with a touching look at who the tornado took away from us -- Erin.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, the day after the tornado, I actually came here to this house and met the woman who owns it and she was so happy as she was sifting through what's left, which of course, isn't very much and I asked her why she was so cheerful. She told me it was because her entire family survived. But of course, Jake, as you know, there are more than 20 families who are not feeling the same way right now. They're still hurting.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCPIKE (voice-over): Worst of all the devastation in Monday's tornado were the 24 lives lost. Today their families and neighbors shared stories of the lives they lived and how they died. Newborn Case Futrell just 4-months-old died alongside his mother, Megan, as they sought refuge from the storm. Case was one of 10 children who died Monday. There was also 8-year-old soccer player Kyle Davis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will miss him tremendously, but I'll see him again when it's my turn to make that journey. MCPIKE: And 9-year-old Janae Hornsby loved to dance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was, you know, a ball of energy, a ball of love. She was the best kid anybody could have.

MCPIKE: Hornsby and Davis died along with five other 9-year-olds at the demolished Plaza Towers Elementary School. They are Antonia Candelaria, Sydney Angle, Emily Conatzer, Nicolas McCabe and Christopher Legg. Other children lost their mothers like Angelita Santiago whose mother, Tewauna Robinson, called her to say goodbye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To lose her to something so devastating is just -- it hurts. I had everything a girl could want with her mom.

MCPIKE: And Shannon Quick, a 40-year-old mother of two.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love her.

MCPIKE: Her soul and those are the other victims will be celebrated and remembered in Moore. The first of the funerals was held today.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCPIKE: Heartbreaking stories there obviously, Jake, but the good news is that here in this neighborhood we're already seeing construction workers on rooftops starting to rebuild -- Jake.

TAPPER: Erin McPike, trying to convey the sense of loss down there. It's truly devastating. Thank you so much.

This weekend get an up close look at the storm chasers who went into the vortex and risked their lives to get incredible footage of the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma. Don't miss "Storm Hunters, In The Path Of Disaster," an Anderson Cooper special report that's Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.

Coming up, he doesn't mind apologizing again and again and again as long as he can have a shot at being mayor of New York, but will voters forgive Anthony Weiner for sending racy photos to random women? Our "Politics Lead" is next.

He helped rescue three women trapped for years in a Cleveland home and now Charles Ramsey is being rewarded handsomely. What is he getting for his heroic effort? That is our "Buried Lead" and is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it's time for our "Politics Lead." You know, there used a time when Congressman Anthony Weiner didn't want to give interviews especially when a picture of his underwear was thrown in his face. But now he is back, running for mayor of New York City and he is ready to open up to reporters.

He gave an interview to radio station WNYC and he is acutely aware that his scandal isn't going away any time soon. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY WEINER: I made very big mistakes. I compounded it immeasurably by being dishonest about it. I apologized many, many times to my wife and frankly I know that part of this process is going to be doing a lot of apologizing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I'm sorry I ran that clip, but can he apologize his way back into politics? Joining me now to discuss this, Carly Fiorina, chairman of Good 360 and former adviser to John McCain's presidential campaign, among your many credits, I should say, there are a lot.

Hilary Rosen, Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor also again among your many credits and we should also disclose that your firm SKD Knickerbockers New York office serves as New York mayoral candidate, Christine Quinn's, media consultant.

So there is a conflict of interest. We are acknowledging it right now and of course, Mark Liebowitz, chief national correspondent, "New York Times" magazine. You know, I don't know if you have a lot of credits to your name, but I like you a lot, you know.

You are very talented. It's too bad because I'm going to you first. Is this going to be enough this apology tour? Is he going to be able to apologize his way into Gracie Mansion?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, I'm --

TAPPER: Here's my water. We'll start with you, Hilary.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.

TAPPER: Step back from your partner's affiliation.

ROSEN: I honestly think Christine Quinn is a great candidate, but you know, Anthony Weiner if nobody I knew was running, I just think it is so cynical to kind of jump in and say I need a cleansing moment so I'm going to go run for the highest office in my city to get it.

TAPPER: You don't think he is actually running to win, but this is kind of like a penance so he can live his life again?

ROSEN: I think it was clear when he started that he thought there was nothing to lose. Either he had a shot at winning, which the polls don't seem to agree with nor most people in New York.

TAPPER: He is second in polls.

ROSEN: Something like a significant majority of people disapproved of the fact that he is running which is unusual really.

TAPPER: I think it's 50 percent

ROSEN: But the other issue is he probably has nothing to lose just analytically. Maybe at some point in this race people start to talk to him about the issues. That's what he wants to do. He wants to get past this. I don't know if he can.

TAPPER: Carly, he's doing what he needs to do to run. He is acknowledging. He is apologizing.

CARLY FIORINA, CHAIRMAN, GOOD 360: Yes. Well, you know, I would have thought Mark Sanford wouldn't be elected either.

TAPPER: There you go.

FIORINA: Not because of a moral issue. People can do what they choose to do. But to me, Anthony Weiner, Mark Sanford, it calls into question their judgment as well as their egos that they think they can lie in this way and get away with it. So would he be my choice for mayor? Absolutely not, but who knows?

TAPPER: Who knows?

FIORINA: Who knows?

MARK LEIBOVICH, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES" MAGAZINE: I can talk now.

TAPPER: Good. That's why we brought you here.

LEIBOVICH: This is good. I realize that.

TAPPER: Not to write.

LEIBOVICH: I do think that there seems to be a little something different about this. I don't know, Mark Sanford, Bill Clinton, obviously a lot of politicians who have survived sex scandals over the years. This one feels real recent, but also, the persona that sort of came into it, the whole dissembling, you know, over several days, actually weeks before admitting to it, the -- frankly, just the internet weirdness of it.

TAPPER: Do you think it's the picture?

LEIBOVICH: There are some terrible pictures. I mean, look, I'm not one to judge pictures but every apology he made today, every bit of news that came out of his announcement contained pictures like that. Many of them did. It's a tough sort of one-two punch of, actually one, two, three punch of his own persona, the pictures, and the story itself.

TAPPER: I want to get to another controversy in the news. Carly, House Speaker John Boehner was asked about what he thought about President Obama and the IRS scandal. This is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: It's pretty inconceivable to me that the president wouldn't know. I'm just putting myself in his shoes. I deal with my senior staff every day and if the White House had known about this, which now it appears they've known about it for about a year, it's hard to imagine it wouldn't have come up in some conversation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: There isn't any evidence that the president knew about it, but obviously the White House story has changed.

FIORINA: Well, let's look at the alternatives here. One alternative is the one John Boehner is suggesting. OK, let's reject that one for the moment then there are two other alternatives. One is that his staff, the IRS clearly knew about this a year before the IG report. Either people thought this is so terrible we have to protect the president from it for a while or they thought it doesn't matter. We don't need to bother the president with this.

Either one of those options I don't feel real good about and I would also say if you're the president of the United States and you have consistent noise about a group being targeted by the IRS, a good executive would ask a question at a certain point.

TAPPER: Hillary, very quickly, last thought?

ROSEN: First of all, if somebody says it's inconceivable that evidence is irrelevant because the evidence, the Republican appointed inspector general said there were no politics involved here. And I think if the president had actually said something the Republicans would have a different line today which is what's wrong with the president interfering with the inspector general independent investigation? Thank you so much, great job.

TAPPER: Carly Fiorina, Mark Leibovich, thank you so much. Great job. Coming up two of Hollywood's most famous leading men starring as unexpected lovers, the story that took more than a decade to make, why? That's our "Pop Lead."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. In our Pop Culture Lead, it is a film that's been over a decade in the making. "Behind the Candelabra," that's not an answer for the board game clue. It is not where you can find the Pritzker. It's the latest HBO film starring Michael Douglas as the over-the-top entertainer Liberace and Matt Damon as his young lover.

It is a movie about how life on the stage and its excesses can bleed into real life. It is a reminder Liberace was more than a larger than life figure. He was an incredibly talented pianist. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really thank you all for joining me in this boogie woogie. I'd like to try a little experiment. I've been playing this boogie woogie at eight beats to the bar. I'd like to try playing it now at 16 beats to the bar.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Joining me now to discuss this film "Behind the Candelabra" is the executive producer, a legend in Hollywood, Jerry Weintraub. Jerry, thanks for joining us.

JERRY WEINTRAUB, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "BEHIND THE CANDELABRA": Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

TAPPER: So I have to say Michael Douglas in this film, was this CGI or did he actually learn to play the piano? It's incredible.

WEINTRAUB: Well, he learned a little bit of piano. He didn't learn to play like that.

TAPPER: So that is somebody else's body playing the piano?

WEINTRAUB: No. It's his -- both. It's a little CGI, somebody else and him.

TAPPER: Pretty incredible. Now, I know this movie was not an easy sell. You've been talking about doing this movie for years with Director Steven Soderberg and you originally brought it to studios, but they turned it down. Why?

WEINTRAUB: Well, the subject matter was a little risque for them. They were afraid of it and nobody under 50 had heard of Liberace until we started this campaign. And now we're going to get a huge audience and our sampling has told us it's going to be a lot of young people and 18 to 24 so it's quite extraordinary. It's coming at the right time with Prop 8 and the Supreme Court about gay marriage, etcetera, et cetera. It's coming at the right time.

TAPPER: What's interesting about this film is that it obviously deals with false images in show business -- Liberace, who was obviously as we now know gay, but denied it publicly until his death. Was that also a little difficult for Hollywood to take on as a subject, the fake images Hollywood itself makes?

WEINTRAUB: Well, I don't know if that was one of the problems. I think that when Liberace was a performer I don't think, I know. When Liberace was on stage and was alive people in the theatrical business that were performers could not come out and say they were gay because they would lose their complete audience. They'd never have an audience again. His audience were all women, 90 percent women.

We make that point in the film and Rock Hudson was right at the same time. Rock died when he was 57 of AIDS complications and it was a different time in the world. If Liberace would have lived now, like Elton John lives with his partner with children he would have been a happy guy, but he couldn't do that in those days. I don't think that affected Hollywood so much as it affected the subject matter.

TAPPER: You knew him personally, Liberace.

WEINTRAUB: Yes.

TAPPER: Tell us how close did Michael Douglas get to the real Liberace? It seems like a remarkable performance.

WEINTRAUB: It's extraordinary. I think he deserves all the credit in the world because it's a tough thing for an actor, it was tougher for matt because Matt Damon is in his prime. Michael is 68 or 69 or whatever he is years old so it's a different story for Michael Douglas, but he's done an incredible job as Liberace. He is extraordinary in my opinion.

TAPPER: You started your career, people might not know this, as a concert promoter. You worked with Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Neil Diamond. How does Liberace size up in terms of entertainers, these big, legendary entertainers you've worked with?

WEINTRAUB: Well, he was a very flamboyant entertainer. He was Mr. Show business, Mr. Showman. He was a showman. But he was a great pianist and a lot of people never realized what a fantastic pianist Liberace was. He was really a brilliant pianist. He didn't care much about the music.

He cared a lot more about the flamboyance and the show of show business, which we show in the film. But he was Elton John before Elton John. He was Lady Gaga before Lady Gaga. He was Madonna before she was a thought in anybody's mind. He was an extraordinary showman.

TAPPER: The other subject you mentioned in the film, Liberace's young lover Scott Thorson played by Matt Damon, he, himself, is a controversial character in real life. It's his memoir behind the candelabra that served as the model for the film, but Scott is now currently sitting in jail for burglary and identity theft. How much of a role did his personal problems and the fact he is such a complicated person play in making this film?

WEINTRAUB: Well, he wasn't involved in the making of the film. I bought the book. We had the book adapted and a screenplay made out of it. It is extraordinary and that's what attracted Steven Soderberg and attracted Matt Damon, Michael Douglas, Marvin Hamlish, Rob Lowe, Dan Akroyd, Bebby Reynolds, et cetera. We have an extraordinary star cast, extraordinary supporting cast and a great screenplay. That's what you need to make a film like this.

TAPPER: It is an extraordinary film and we wish you the best of luck with it. It is going to be on Sunday on HBO. Thank you so much. Legendary Executive Producer Jerry Weintraub thanks for stopping by THE LEAD.

WEINTRAUB: Thanks for having me, Jake. I appreciate it.

TAPPER: Coming up, he is accused of murdering 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas including service members, yet the Army is still paying Nidal Hasan's salary to the tune of almost $300,000. Why? Our Buried Lead is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In the "Buried Lead," that is stories we think are not getting enough attention as thousands of returning warriors wait for their benefits from the government, Major Nidal Hasan the accused Fort Hood shooter who is behind bars and is still getting paid.

The army psychiatrist is accused of massacring 13 people and wounding dozens of others at Fort Hood, Texas more than three years ago. He is set to face court-martial on July 1st. According to the current military pay table available online Hasan has now been paid more than $278,000 since the shooting. Of course, Hasan is innocent until proven guilty and under military code he is paid until convicted.

He put down his Big Mac and became a hero and then he achieved YouTube immortality with this clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES RAMSEY: I'm eating at McDonald's. I come outside. I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of a house.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Hero Charles Ramsey is now going to be getting free burgers for a year from McDonald's. McDonald's also says it donated $10,000 to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the names of Amanda Berry, Gina Dejesus, and Michelle Knight, the three women Ramsey helped to escape.

Also according to the "Cleveland Plain Dealer," more than a dozen northeast Ohio restaurants have promised Ramsey a burger any time he stops in for the rest of his life. The restaurant where Ramsey works as a dishwasher even named a burger after him, a play off a Big Mac.

Well, at least it still does the job, right? A year-long investigation called operation swirl by a beverage control in New Jersey has confirmed every liquor Stob's worst nightmare. It found that 29 bars and restaurants nearly half of them TGI Fridays were pouring cheap booze into premium bottles passing it off as high end and pocketing savings. The Fridays restaurants nailed are owned by a single franchisee and now corporate is having a word with that group.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I leave you now in the capable hands of Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.